Northern Nipmuck 16m Trail Race
5am is pretty early to be on the road. But we were for the four hour ride to Connecticut to run in the Northern Nipmuck 16M Trail race. We pulled into the State Park around 9am and found a place to park in the same lot we parked in last year. The day was overcast with the threat of rain later in the morning. With the temps in the 40’s, it was hard to decide what to wear-shorts or tights? A long sleeve or short sleeve shirt? A jacket? The day was expected to get a little warmer and I remember being overdressed two years ago (the last time I ran this race) so I opted for shorts, a short sleeve shirt and a jacket in case it rained. I also decided t o use my hydration pack so I wouldn’t lose time at aid stations and not have to deal with fuel belt bottles.
Once I had everything, I made a quick trip to the woods and went to the start area with Jack. We ran a little bit of the way to start warming up and Jack took off up the trail for some more. I went part way up the first hill to remind myself of the terrain and to practice a little downhill running.
I hung out near the start line not wanting to be to be right at the front but not too far back either. The pre-race talk was brief and we were off. It’s uphill for the first mile and a half so it didn’t take long to warm up. It had been raining so the trail was muddy and had puddles I was going around to keep my feet dry. This was my first time for any real trail running this year so I was feeling like Bambi trying to find good footing, run the down hills fearlessly and just not fall.
The course is eight miles out and back with an aid station around the four mile mark and at the turn around. I got to the first aid station without falling and glanced at it as I went by. With the recent rain, the stream crossings were a little tricky and the roots and rocks were a bit slippery however I made it to the turn around unscathed. I did spend a minute or so joking with my friend, Glen Redpath, who was volunteering and enjoyed a small cup of Coke.
Shortly after starting the return trip, it began to rain. It didn’t bother me too much as the course is all in the trees. I was glad to be wearing a jacket. By now, I had finally found a groove and was slowly picking people off that had passed me at the start. I think I moved up 5-6 places and was pulling some guys behind me. I finished two years ago in 3:16 and was hoping to finish somewhere close to that. 3:16 came and went on my watch and the finish wasn’t in sight. I knew I was close because I was cruisin’ down the hill we went up to start. A couple of the guys I was pulling passed me. I let them go and tried to pick up my pace. The last section of hill is rocky so the footing can be tricky but there was the finish and Jack standing under an umbrella. I finished in 3:20 which I’m happy with and it was fun seeing some familiar trail running faces. Hopefully, this is the start of a successful season.